11.2 QUALITY ASSURANCE IN HIGHER EDUCATION
The first Law on Higher Education (Official Gazette 64/2000) introduced the quality assurance (QA) concepts in Macedonian higher education and provided for the establishment of the first national bodies within the Ministry of Education and Science (MOES) responsible for QA- the Accreditation Board (AB) and the Evaluation Agency (EA). Within the last two decades, the quality assurance went through different phases of development and experienced many challenges (changes of the number and the composition of these bodies, merger of these two bodies into one Higher Education and Accreditation Board (HEAEB), introduction and withdrawal of the state exam etc.) that didn’t provide for greater efficiency of the QA system, nor for continuous quality enhancement of higher education.
Recognizing the lack of effective quality assurance system in HE, the national Strategy for Education 2018-2025 identifies the “Quality Assurance and Efficiency of Higher education in Line with European Good Practices” (MOES p.53) as its first strategic priority in the area of higher education and research, while the creation of the necessary preconditions for effective functioning of the body responsible for QA as one of the key expected results for the upcoming period. HEAEB is affiliate ENQA member as of October 2011. The novelties of the new Law on Higher Education (Official Gazette 82/2018) provided for the establishment of a new Agency for Quality in HE as independent legal entity that strives towards full ENQA membership.
•1 Responsible bodies
As determined with the Article 41 of the Law on Higher Education (Official Gazette 82/2018,), the system of “assurance, assessment, development and enhancement of higher education” is consisted of 1) accreditation of higher education institutions (HEIs) and study programs; 2) evaluation of higher education, and 3) other activities on quality assurance. The latter entails the university activities related to introduction of an (internal) system of assurance and control of quality, as well the university ranking and ranking of independent scientific /research institutions that provide higher education.
QA system is accomplished through the National Council for Higher Education and Research (Nacionalen sovet za visokoto obrazovanie i naucno istrazuvackata dejnost) and the Agency for Quality in Higher Education (Agencija za kvalitet vo visokoto obrazovanie). A set of bylaws is to be enacted after their commencement.
The National Council for Higher Education and Research (hereinafter the National Council) is the highest autonomous expert body in the country on higher education and research policies. Besides of setting the (new) national standards and criteria for funding of the higher education, the National Council has a mandate to monitor the development of HE and its compliance with European and international standards, to develop and propose to the Parliament the National Programs for Higher Education and Research and to enact a set of Rulebooks which regulate the work of the Agency (Rulebook on the norms and Standards for establishing higher education institution (HEI) and higher education provision; Rulebook for the Content of the Study Programs, Rulebook on the Methodology, Standards and Procedures for Accreditation of HEIs and study programs, on the Standards and Procedures for External evaluation and self-evaluation of institutions). It is expected that these by-laws will be compliant with the ENQA Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG). The National Council is consisted of 15 members elected by the Parliament (six members from the professors proposed by the Interuniversity conference on secret ballot, six members from the professors proposed by the Government, one member from the Macedonian Academy of Science and Arts (MANU), one member of the business community and one member of the students proposed by the Interuniversity conference. The elected members of the National Council have a 4 year mandate, except the student who has a two years mandate.
The Agency for Quality of Higher Education (hereinafter the Agency) consists of 2 separate bodies (the Accreditation and the Evaluation Boards). Alike the composition of the National Council, each of these bodies are consisted of 15 members with 4 years mandate and no right to re-election. Six members of the Accreditation Board (AB) and of the Evaluation Board (EB) are elected from the professors proposed by the Interuniversity conference on secret ballot, six members from the professors proposed by the Government, one member from the Macedonian Academy of Science and Arts (MANU), one member from the most representative organization of employers and one member of the students proposed by the Interuniversity conference on secret ballot. The university professors that are members of the AB and EB must represent all scientific fields and should have published at least 10 scientific papers in referent scientific publications. If there are no experts on specific fields among the AB and EB members, they can engage external experts.
In order to ensure a clear division and separation of the accreditation and evaluation processes as well as the operational independence of both bodies, the members of the university/faculty management structures, Rectors, Vice-rectors, Directors of Research Institutes as well as the members of the National Council and/or the members of the Evaluation Board cannot be elected and serve as member(s) of the Accreditation Board, while the members of the National Council and/or the members of the Accreditation Board cannot be elected and serve as member(s) of the Evaluation Board. The Agency has a Director that is selected on open call by the Parliament and a professional service office for the administrative technical issues.
The Accreditation Board has the following responsibilities (Article 48 of the Law on HE):
- Determines whether the project(s) for the establishing of HEI and the documentation presented meets the prescribed criteria for higher education provision and determines the capacity for studying at the HEI;
- Adopts a decision for accreditation of the project for establishing independent private and private-public HEI and for establishing of unit of independent private and private-public HEI;
- Adopts a decision for accreditation of scientific institution for provision of higher education studies at the second and third cycle;
- Determines eligibility for organizing of studies in new study programs and capacity for studying at the HEIs;
- Decides on accreditation of study program for a period of 5 years;
- Decides on accreditation of mentors of doctoral studies;
- Based on external evaluation, monitors the fulfillment of conditions at HEIs and decides to revoke accreditation;
- Keep records on accredited HEIs and has obligation to publish report on its work at the web site of the Agency;
- Informs biannually the Ministry of Education and the National Council for the provided accreditations;
- Decides on revocation of accreditation before the expiry of the period for which the accreditation is awarded, upon the proposal of the Accreditation Board;
- Gives recommendations for improvement of norms and standards for higher education provision and proposes to the National Council a Rulebook on the Methodology, Standards and Procedures for Accreditation of HEIs and study programs.
The Evaluation Board has the following responsibilities (Article 53 of the Law on HE):
- Follows the work of the accredited HEIs through the evaluation commissions of the HEIs;
- Assesses the quality of higher education provision and research, of the academic staff and of the study programs on every 5 years based on which propose to the Accreditation Board the extension or revocation of accreditation;
- Gives recommendations for improvement of norms and standards for higher education provision and proposes to the National Council a Rulebook on the Standards and Procedures for External evaluation and self-evaluation of institutions;
- Reports on its work biannually to the Ministry of Education and to the National Council;
•2 Approaches and methods for quality assurance
In 2022 Rulebook on methodology, standards and procedure for accreditation has been adopted
Internal quality assurance
The Law stipulates the introduction of a system of assurance and control of quality as one of the university activities (article 19), yet, there is no explicit legislation requirements for internal quality assurance, nor there are joint national recommendations on internal quality assurance.
HEIs has responsibility to perform self-evaluation on every three years that is conducted by the Self-evaluation Commission of the HEI based on the Rulebook on the Standards and Procedures for External Evaluation and Self-evaluation of Institutions. The Self-evaluation Commission of the HEI is consisted of university staff members and students’ representatives elected on secret ballot by the University Senate / or by the Teaching Council of the independent higher education vocational school with a four-year term. The survey with students on the quality of the teaching and associate staff is implemented as integral part of the self-evaluation process performed at the end of the semester/end of the academic year. The HEIs have to publish their self-evaluation reports at their web sites.
External quality assurance
Accreditation of a project for establishing higher education institution is adoption of decision by the Accreditation Board that accepts the project (for the private or public-private HEI), i.e. gives opinion for the project that includes the elaborated conditions for establishing of public higher education institution. As stipulated in article 64, the founder of private HEI prepares and submits to the Government the project for establishing private higher education institution (through the Ministry of Education and Science). Once Government approval is obtained, the founder submits the project to the Accreditation Board (AB) which adopts a decision for accreditation of the project for establishing private or public-private higher education institution (reshenie za akreditacija na proektot za osnovanje na privatna ili privatno-javna ustanova).
The Accreditation Board gives an opinion on the project for establishing public higher education institution and once provided, a proposal of a Law for establishing public higher education institution is submitted to the Macedonian Parliament. After law adoption, the Minister nominates a Commission (Maticna komisija) on a proposal of the National Council which is responsible for meeting all preconditions (faculty recruitment etc.). Following the on-site inspection, the Ministry of Education and Science adopts a decision for starting a work of university. The issued decision includes the study programs, the number of students the number of employed faculty and the premises for higher education provision.
Accreditation of a study program is adoption of decision by the Accreditation Board for implementation of the study program at the higher education institution. (Initial) Accreditation of study programs for the first, second and third cycle is awarded by the Accreditation Board and is done based on the Rulebook on the Methodology, Standards and Procedures for Accreditation of HEIs and Study Programs enacted by the National Council. The decision for accreditation of study programs at the second and the third cycle must include the mentors of the master and the doctoral thesis for the relevant study programs. The accreditation of a study program is issued for a period of 5 academic years. Following the issued accreditation, the Director of the Agency establishes a Commission (consisted from two members of the Agency and one university staff member elected in academic rank) to determine if the study programs fulfill the conditions for starting of the work. A decision for launching of the study programs at the first and the second cycle is issued by the Director of the Agency upon the receipt of the positive report for compliance with the conditions and requirements for start of the study programs. It must be published on the website of the Quality Assurance Agency These decisions for the study programs at the third cycle is issued by the Macedonian Government upon the receipt of the positive accreditation decision by the Accreditation Board and a positive report for compliance with the conditions and requirements for start of the study programs. All university units, scientific institutes and independent higher education institutions are obliged to make the study programs and the accreditation decisions publicly available at their web sites before the call for students’ enrolment is announced. The Accreditation Board must decide on accreditation of the study programme within 90 days from the date of submission, the decision is final but an appeal may be filed against it to the Administrative Court. The Director of the Agency have to adopt the decision for commencement of operation on the study programme within 30 days from the date of submission.
Re-accreditation of first- and second-cycle study programs takes place in a five-year period. Re-accreditation of the third cycle study programs takes place every three years.
Accreditation of mentors for second and third cycle students Accreditation Board. A mentor of the doctoral thesis may be a tenure or associate professor from the relevant scientific field who is employed at the higher education institution, tenure or associate professor whose working relation is on standby or a regular professor in retirement who has been employed by the higher education institution. They can be accredited for mentors for doctoral studies if they have published six scientific papers in a reference scientific publication or have achieved at least three relevant top art performances at relevant domestic and international events.
External Evaluation of HEIs
The external evaluation of HEIs is conducted by the Evaluation Board on every fifth year based on the self-evaluation report of the relevant HEI. The evaluation needs to use / follow the Rulebook on the Standards and Procedures for External Evaluation and Self-evaluation of Institutions in line with the ESG 2015 of ENQA adopted by the National Council.
The external evaluation is conducted by the commissions elected by the Evaluation Board, two thirds of them consisted of foreign professors from different study fields coming from countries with national agencies members of ENQA. The external evaluation reports are public and have to be published at the web site of the Agency.
Six public universities – the University Ss. “Cyril and Methodius”, Skopje; University St. “Kliment Ohridski”, Bitola, the University “Goce Delcev”, Shtip, State University in Tetovo, University “St. Apostol Pavle”, Ohrid and the private non for profit SEEU at Tetovo went through the process of (initial and/or follow-up) institutional evaluation carried out by the European University Association (EUA). Until now, there was no any links between the external evaluation results and the level of funding of HEIs.
The Agency for Quality of Higher Education (AQHE) established a Register of foreign experts selected by the Evaluation Board for Higher Education based on an Open call for selection of foreign experts for implementation of external evaluation of higher education institutions and study programs in the Republic of North Macedonia. The purpose of the call is to establish expert commissions for external evaluation of higher education institutions and study programs in the Republic of North Macedonia.
The Agency for Quality of Higher Education (AQHE) established a Register of students selected by the Evaluation Board for Higher Education based on an Open call for selection of students for implementation of external evaluation of higher education institutions and study programs in the Republic of North Macedonia. The purpose of the call is to establish expert commissions for external evaluation of higher education institutions and study programs in the Republic of North Macedonia.
National university ranking was introduced with the law amendments back in 2010 (Official Gazette 115/2010). The Ministry commissioned 3 subsequent rankings ever since (the first in 2011-2012; the second in 2013-2014 and the third in 2015-2016) conducted by the Shangai’s Jiao Tong University known by ARU ranking, based on the set of indicators. The Law on HE (Official Gazette 82/2018) continues and extends the ranking as compulsory undertaking every three years not only to all registered universities, but also to all independent scientific institutes that provide higher education. The Law also limits the possibility of the HEIs to provide third cycle of studies only to those that are among the first seven HEIs on the rank list. Ranking is to be performed by an external legal entity with developed ranking methodology, available human resources and a relevant experience in university ranking in at least 3 EU member states. The selection is to be made by the Minister of education on a competitive public procurement call and the Ministry makes the ranking reports available at its web site.
Ministry of Education and Science, Accredited Higher Education Institutions in the Republic of North Macedonia available at: https://mon.gov.mk/page/?id=2047
Macedonian HEIs Ranking 2015-2016 available at:
Macedonian HEIs Ranking 2013-2014 available at:
Macedonian HEIs Ranking 2011-2012 available at: http://www.shanghairanking.com/Macedonian_HEIs_Ranking/Macedonian-HEIs-Ranking-2011-2012.html